A Chicago Police officer has been stripped of his authority following the killing of an unarmed Hispanic man during an off-duty dispute.
Jose Nieves, 38, was shot to death by a 57-year-old veteran officer, who has been identified in federal court papers as Lowell Houser. The victim’s family said that this is not the fist time that an altercation has occurred between the two parties, and that they lived in the same building.
The victim’s sister, told WGN that her brother had called 911 on the officer repeatedly in the past. The fatal dispute took place when the officer began harassing the victim’s girlfriend at the bar where Nieves worked.
“He would complain about [Houser] pulling out his gun at him, him coming home from work. More than once, he’s called 911. They’ve gone to the apartment. They’ve gone [to the victim’s place of employment]. They don’t do nothing about it. He’s an officer,” said Angelica Nieves, the victim’s sister.
“It was not justified. It wasn’t justified. It was not,” the victim’s father, Angel Nieves, told the news station.
Chicago police have been the focus of much criticism in recent months, following a number of high-profile police shootings. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson took over the department last year following the city’s outrage over the department’s handling of the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Garry McCarthy, Johnson’s predecessor, after dashcam footage contradicted police claims that the teenager had lunged at officers with a knife. McDonald was shot over a dozen times while walking away from officers. The footage was kept secret for over a year.
Nieves’ death has been ruled a homicide. The only weapon recovered from the scene belonged to the officer.
A vigil was held for Nieves on Jan. 7.
Many took to Twitter to express their thoughts, often citing how police handle altercations with people of color.
It is unclear whether the murder was sparked by racial tension, provoked by the victim, or was a result from workplace stress, which causes about one million Americans to miss work every day.
“I have a lot more questions than I do answers. So I came out because I wanted to make sure this investigation was done properly,” Johnson said in a press release. “The facts are preliminary at this time.”
Stripping the officer of his authority is the “strongest step a department can take” during an open investigation, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Chicago Tribune.
Houser will still be paid throughout the investigation due to department policy.